Today on Pittsfield.com we received a comment from the former director of Storefront Artist Project who expressed her disappointment in my reporting on the organization’s closing, and that I furthermore “used the news of Storefront’s closing as a personal platform to slander me as well as the organization based on negativity, assumptions, unsubstantiated rumors, and fictitious claims.” Her comment in its entirety can be found after the article here
Seeing as this was the second defensive bristling seen over this article this week (the first from an SAP board member on Facebook), I felt like a more expansive response was warranted to address some of the misleading statements that have been made since it was published.
I would like to clarify several issues raised here, and enunciate certain of my statements more clearly.
First of all, I would hope that it would be understood by anyone reading the article in question http://bit.ly/uIIU9D that this is in no way an attack by me against anyone. Nor is it my intent to summarize the entire history of Storefront Artist Project and its considerable contribution to the community here. That is simply not the focus of the article.
Over the last four years I have lived in Pittsfield, I have attended at least 75% of the openings held by the organization, and seen closer to 95% of the exhibits there. I have donated money, time, and technical skills to the organization on several occasions. I donated the wifi router which SAP used for its internet for all of its last year. Art I have purchased from SAP 12X12 auctions counts among my most treasured possessions. The idea or implication that I am trying to pull a slash-and-burn attack on this organization is preposterous. On a purely personal level, it saddens me greatly to report facts which might reflect poorly and incorrectly be seen as taking away from the great work it has done. Unfortunately, to omit all mention of unpleasant perceptions that have been voiced with regard to SAP’s past year would constitute a level of journalistic bias I simply haven’t been in this business long enough to stomach.
By the by, I thought the “looking-back-on-ten-years” “last hurrah” piece would be more appropriate around December 12, when SAP actually has its closing celebration, from a covering-the-news standpoint. That was my thinking. The subject of this particular article is the *announcement of SAP’s closing*, an announcement that quite frankly left even the most vocal SAP supporters I talked to asking “Yes, but why?”
That was among the milder feedback I got after the announcement went out, a sort of collective head-scratching “Ok, Mission Accomplished. Why not keep accomplishing?”
The answers to that question that I heard from literally a couple dozen different people was not especially flattering. These were part of tapestry of statements I heard over a course of months, conversations which in many cases took place standing right in the Storefront gallery. The decision to not publicly trot out a long laundry list of names and negative direct quotes seems the only responsible one I can make, and that is reinforced to me by the reactions I have heard from these two individuals. Certainly I have no intention of exposing any other individuals to the sort of smearing I received from Mr Tomasi this week simply for mentioning the *existence* of such sentiments and rumors- which, by the way, were already dissected quite publicly on a popular local website BACK IN JULY. see: http://bit.ly/qcrVp3
When this alleged unrest and conflict *first* were brought into public discussion (on this exceedingly well known local blog, allegedly read by thousands) I went directly to the leadership of SAP for their side of the story. It took quite some time and doing to get in touch, but when I did manage to connect I was given to understand by Board Chair Maria Mingalone that this was not really the case. I have reproduced her comments on this accurately. At that time Maria told me that the organization might be facing a transition back to its more rogue, grass-roots origins, and that the possibility of closing the gallery space when the lease ran out at the end of the year was very much on the table, but not because of difficulties within the organization.
Deciding that more coverage of the allegations made in that media outlet, decried as they were by the Chair and (less emphatically) by a couple other board members I spoke to, were not particularly newsworthy and might only serve to make SAP’s organizational decision of how or if they should continue more difficult. Certainly not the behavior of someone with an ax to grind against the enterprise.
In the period that followed, I continued to hear some unpleasant rumblings. These magnified and echoed following what most I spoke to saw as a very vague closing statement.
To very specifically answer Julia’s question, though, in fairness, I have spoken to people about the things she mentions. I talked to artists who participated in the art show curated in conjunction with WAM’s program who were less than thrilled with its management, including one who wrote a letter to the Ms. Dixon complaining about the manner in which the destruction of their artwork in that show was handled (a copy of which was sent to me unsolicited). Didn’t see the need to include any of this specifically. I talked to a couple participants in the SUSO group, who held a couple of meetings hosted by SAP& Emporium last spring, who seemed to recall that Julia was “at one for a few minutes,” before expressing specific gratitude to Carrie Wright, proprietor of the Emporium and spouse of one of SUSO’s co-founders.
This sentiment was repeated by friends and fans of the artist in the glass exhibit which both myself and Julia already mentioned. There was particular enthusiasm for this exhibit, which while occuring in SAP’s space during Ms. Dixon’s tenure as director, to the best of my understanding was initiated, organized and promoted almost exclusively by Wright. So the feedback I heard on that exhibit was mostly how great Carrie had been to work with, with asides of with frustration that Ms. Dixon was not seen as involved in the show, nor present at its opening. Again, didn’t see reason to include it.
I also talked to a lot of fans of Carrie’s store Emporium, for the simple reason that they were ones who had the most to say to me about the issue. An interesting if biased perspective, as the hardcore friends and frequent shoppers of that store constitute a group of people that have arguably spent more core time inside the South Street space than anyone other than Emporium & SAP paid employees. *Suffice it to say that I only included in my article the most upbeat and positive quote I managed to cull from that entire subset of people.*
Please note that while there were several more people who said that I could feel free to quote them, their commentary did not appear for the simple reasons that as I’ve stated, this was never meant to be a hatchet-job on SAP nor diminish its overall accomplishments over a decade, nor was it was intended to be a congratulatory tribute to Wright’s hard work as an independent partner of SAP, despite the preponderance of input I got on that score.
I can only repeat as strenuously as I know how: It was never my intention to attack any individual, and certainly not Storefront Artist Project, an organization which I have vocally and tangibly supported. If anything, I withheld considerable commentary from multiple sources out of a general affection for SAP matched with the belief that the extent of the public’s right to know the internal business of a private nonprofit arts organization is ultimately pretty finite.
However, to ignore all such commentary, including that already widely read in another media outlet, to pretend that there were no alternate opinions from other people affected by events there in the past year, and that these haven’t been discussed for months, would be to completely ignore the voice of a whole pocket of the community involved. It would be a lie.
On the other hand, directly quoting them all by name, in my personal judgement, would be detrimental to them as well as to SAP and other parties, and for no good reason. I fully understand that this stance makes it easy to take shots at the messenger on this, but I stand by this article as being overall the most representative, conscientious balance I could strike with the story that was in front of me, the sources that talked to me. [So when I say something like “sources indicated” or what have you, what I mean to say is that is EXACTLY what they darned well indicated, and I will look you straight in the eye and tell you the same, if you like. Except that we both know who a lot of those sources could have been. I simply won’t be baited into throwing them under anyone’s bus by a lot of contrived blustering]
I regret that anyone might feel that this is an affront to them by me personally as opposed to a the conveyance of viewpoints in the community that were well known to exist, with every attempt made to avoid needlessly burning those individuals who took the time to talk to me about these matters. I very much welcome input from anyone else at SAP. I would still love to tell the “big picture” story about the organization’s history over all, IN DECEMBER, when it’s appropriate, and to get input from all of SAP on this at the final 12×12. Provided I’m still welcome at the event, which I hope I am.